Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

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Updated 11 August 2019

Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

  • The pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes
  • Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an

CAIRO: An Egyptian tradition of painting the homes of Hajj pilgrims with religious verses and images continues to withstand the passage of time.

The pilgrimage season sees calligraphers and painters busy sketching the journeys of worshippers on the front walls of houses in villages, towns and cities throughout the country.

Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an.

Ahmed Sayed Ahmed, 30, is one of the most well-known calligraphers in the Ghouria area of central Cairo, where he has worked for more than 15 years.

He told Arab News that the decoration process began with painting walls white to create a clean canvas for the artwork which usually included the name, gender and age of the person performing the pilgrimage.

Gamal Al-Arabi, another calligrapher and painter from Cairo, said that the tradition was still popular among Egyptian Muslims. Raised in Abnoub in Assiut governorate, he studied Arabic calligraphy for two years in Cairo and later traveled to Saudi Arabia where he worked as a calligrapher and painter.

He said that the pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes.

“In some desert villages they draw the camel, for example, and pilgrims around the Kaaba or during prayer. Recently, the majority of drawings involve ships and planes, but paintings of the Kaaba and the sacred house of God are fundamental,” Al-Arabi added.

He pointed out that his favorite fonts for Islamic inscriptions were diwan and rekea because they were easy to read.


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 20 November 2019

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.